U.S. cap­tures Beng­hazi mil­i­tant

Sus­pect in at­tack that killed four Amer­i­cans faces trial in D.C.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - LOLITA C. BAL­DOR, JOSH LE­D­ER­MAN AND MATTHEW LEE In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Mag­gie Michael and Sadie Gur­man of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces cap­tured a mil­i­tant in Libya ac­cused of play­ing an in­stru­men­tal role in the Beng­hazi at­tacks, of­fi­cials said Mon­day, in a high-stakes op­er­a­tion de­signed to bring the per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice five years af­ter the deadly vi­o­lence.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump iden­ti­fied the mil­i­tant as Mustafa al-Imam and said his cap­ture sig­ni­fied that the four Amer­i­cans who died “will never be for­got­ten.” Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials were es­cort­ing al-Imam by mil­i­tary plane to the United States, where he’s ex­pected to be tried in fed­eral court.

“Our mem­ory is deep and our reach is long, and we will not rest in our ef­forts to find and bring the per­pe­tra­tors of the heinous at­tacks in Beng­hazi to jus­tice,” Trump said.

The Navy SEAL-led raid marked the first pub­licly known op­er­a­tion since Trump took of­fice to tar­get those ac­cused of in­volve­ment in Beng­hazi, which mush­roomed into a mul­ti­year series of in­ves­ti­ga­tions and Repub­li­can ac­cu­sa­tions that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion had bun­gled its re­sponse. Hil­lary Clin­ton was sec­re­tary of state at the time of the at­tacks, and those cri­tiques shad­owed her through her pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

U.S. forces cap­tured alI­mam late Sun­day night in Mis­rata, on Libya’s north coast, U.S. of­fi­cials said. He was taken to a U.S. Navy ship at the Mis­rata port for trans­port by mil­i­tary plane to Wash­ing­ton, where he’s ex­pected to ar­rive within the next two days, one of the of­fi­cials said.

Once on Amer­i­can soil, al-Imam will face trial in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as the FBI con­tin­ues to in­ves­ti­gate, the Jus­tice De­part­ment said. He faces three crim­i­nal charges that were filed in May 2015 but only re­cently un­sealed: killing or con­spir­ing to kill some­one dur­ing an at­tack on a fed­eral fa­cil­ity, pro­vid­ing sup­port for ter­ror­ists, and us­ing a firearm in con­nec­tion with a vi­o­lent crime.

It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear how al-Imam was in­volved in the Sept. 11, 2012, vi­o­lence. The U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice said he is a Libyan na­tional and about 46 years old.

Trump said he’d or­dered the raid, and thanked the U.S. mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and prose­cu­tors for track­ing al-Imam and en­abling his cap­ture. The U.S. of­fi­cials said the op­er­a­tion was co­or­di­nated with Libya’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment. They weren’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly on the mat­ter and de­manded anonymity.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said he’d spo­ken with the rel­a­tives of some of the Amer­i­cans who died in Beng­hazi: U.S. Am­bas­sador Chris Stevens, State De­part­ment in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment of­fi­cer Sean Patrick Smith, and con­tract se­cu­rity of­fi­cers Ty­rone Woods and Glen Do­herty. Tiller­son said the U.S. would “spare no ef­fort” to en­sure al-Imam is held ac­count­able.

Al-Imam will face court pro­ceed­ings in U.S. District Court, of­fi­cials said, in an ap­par­ent de­par­ture from Trump’s pre­vi­ously ex­pressed de­sire to send mil­i­tants to the U.S. de­ten­tion cen­ter at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ear­lier this month, another man ac­cused in the Beng­hazi at­tack, Abu Khat­tala, went on trial in fed­eral court in Wash­ing­ton. Khat­tala, cap­tured dur­ing Obama’s tenure, has pleaded in­no­cent to the 18 charges against him, in­clud­ing mur­der of an in­ter­na­tion­ally pro­tected per­son, pro­vid­ing ma­te­rial sup­port to ter­ror­ists and de­stroy­ing U.S. prop­erty while caus­ing death.

The Beng­hazi as­sault started in the evening when armed at­tack­ers scaled the wall of the diplo­matic post and moved through the front gate. Stevens was rushed to a for­ti­fied “safe room” along with Smith, but were then si­phoned off from se­cu­rity of­fi­cers when at­tack­ers set the build­ing and its fur­ni­ture on fire. Libyan civil­ians found Stevens hours later in the wreck­age, and he died of smoke in­hala­tion in a hos­pi­tal, be­com­ing the first U.S. am­bas­sador killed in the line of duty in more than three decades.

A nearby CIA an­nex was at­tacked by mor­tar fire hours af­ter the diplo­matic com­plex, killing Woods and Do­herty, who were de­fend­ing the rooftop.

The at­tack be­came fod­der for mul­ti­ple con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions to de­ter­mine what hap­pened and whether the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion mis­led the pub­lic on the de­tails of the bloody as­sault. Ini­tial ac­counts pro­vided by ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, no­tably Obama’s U.N. am­bas­sador, Su­san Rice, said the at­tack grew out of a protest against an anti-Mus­lim In­ter­net film. Later, the ad­min­is­tra­tion said it was a planned ter­ror­ist at­tack.

A two-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion by a House Beng­hazi com­mit­tee fo­cused heav­ily on Clin­ton’s role and whether se­cu­rity at the com­pounds and the re­sponse to the at­tack was suf­fi­cient. It was the Beng­hazi probe that re­vealed Clin­ton used a pri­vate email server for gov­ern­ment work, prompt­ing an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.